Parashah #14: Va’era (I appeared) Sh’mot (Exodus) 6:2-9:35

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #14 Va’era (I appeared) Sh’mot (Exodus) 6:2-9:35
Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel) 28:25-29:21
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 9:14-17; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

This week’s parashah starts off with a conversation between G-d and Moshe. As the Creator, G-d knew there must be doubt and questions in Moshe’s mind concerning this “discussion.” G-d identifies Himself as Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh (the L-rd; also transliterated from the paleo-Hebrew as Hand-Behold-Nail-Behold) for the first time because the patriarchs did not know G-d by this name. The name YHVH had not been revealed until this time because the time had not yet come to fulfill the promises affiliated with the Name and context of YHVH. G-d tells Moshe that he appeared to Avraham, Yitz’chak, and Ya’akov as El Shaddai (the Breasted One). This makes sense because the nation had to be built before it could be redeemed. G-d as El Shaddai fulfilled the role as the one who nurtured the fledgling nation, then revealing Himself as Adonai, then YHVH; each Name representing a different role of G-d in His relationship with His creation. Adonai’s personal appearance -Va’era marks the fulfillment on past promises and future promises!
In the middle of our narrative, it seems there is an interlude of sorts as the heads of the families and their sons are identified in detail. We may ask the significance related to our parashah and G-d’s instructions to Moshe and Aharon. This genealogy legitimizes Moshe and his brother Aharon and G-d’s official representatives to Pharaoh. Note the selective genealogy that focuses on that of Moshe and Aharon, validating them as fourth generation sons of Levi. Another interesting point is that The Torah makes a point to mention the longevity within this clan, specifically stating the ages of Levi, his son K’hat, and Amram. No other ages are mentioned and there are no second or third generational names given for the other tribes. It seems that G-d allowed the Levites to outlive their siblings in order to fulfill their special purpose of educating their progeny for this time. This is a lesson for us today. G-d has a special purpose/mission for every believer beyond our collective purpose to make His Name known throughout the earth. For the Levites, their purpose was to sing Psalms during Temple services, perform construction and maintenance of the Temple, serve as guards, teachers, judges, and maintain the cities of refuge. Today, the Levites are part of the southern kingdom of Judah, many of whom will be martyred during the Tribulation when their eyes are opened by G-d and they recognize and receive Yahshua as their Pascal Lamb, Redeemer and G-d Himself. They are counted with those biological Jews who are described in Romans 3:1-31. Their role in the history of man and G-d’s plan is yet to be fulfilled completely, just as the “I appeared” will return once more to assume His rightful position as Messiah ben David!
The current events of our day are a sad testimony to the reality that mankind does not remember mistakes made in the past that should serve as life lessons to change mindsets and behaviors. Our parashah provides an excellent parallel to current events and the bigger picture that few recognize. While many argue over the source of COVID-19, the real question should by “Why is this happening? Is there something behind this that might be in some way related to prophecy and G-d?” G-d commanded Moshe or Aharon to stretch out their staff/hand and perform wonders to authenticate His greatness to the people 10 times. Yet, Pharaoh remained defiant (Ex.7:9). Wonders authenticate the greatness of the sender; signs validate the authenticity of the messenger. No matter the wonder Pharaoh continued to harden his heart. There are people who are continuing to harden their hearts even with all of the major catastrophes occurring in our world today; devastating tsunamis, earthquakes in divers places, unusual changes in weather, increases in volcanic activity, etc. The world attempts to rationalize, justify, and minimize these things as part of a natural cycle. But Yahshua warned us just as he did Pharaoh through Moshe and Aharon (See Matthew 24:4-8). The “birth pains” have begun!
Plagues begin and Pharaoh bargained for relief as many do today. Even though G-d provides “breaks” in these major events, many simply go back to their previous lifestyles. Unfortunately, in the current pandemic, there are those who never take any prudent precautions regardless of the death rate and burden on those who are trying to help those who are ill or dying. In our parashah, even the magicians recognized the hand of G-d in the plague of the lice, yet Pharaoh remained arrogant and defiant (Ex. 8:19).
Through all of this defiance, G-d remains merciful to those who will listen to His instructions and follow him. We read in Exodus 9:15 and forward “By now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with such sever plagues that you would have been wiped off the earth. But it is for this very reason that I have kept you alive- to show you my power, and so that my name may resound throughout the whole earth. Since you are still setting yourself up against my people and not letting them go, tomorrow about this time, I will cause a hailstorm so heavy that Egypt has had nothing like it from the day it was founded until now. Therefore, send and hurry to bring indoors all your livestock and everything else you have in the field. For hail will fall on every human being and animal left in the field that hasn’t been brought home, and they will die.”
Whoever among Pharaoh’s servants feared what Adonai had said had his slaves and livestock escape into the houses; but those who had no regard for what Adonai had said left their slaves and livestock in the field.”
We can learn from this that even when a nation’s leader demonstrates behaviors against G-d and His Torah, G-d is merciful to those who follow His instructions. This has tremendous import for us today. Let’s go to Revelation 16:8-11 “The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the Name of G-d, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify Him. The fifth one poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom grew dark. People gnawed on their tongues from pain, yet they cursed the G-d of heaven because of their pain and sore and did not turn from their sinful deeds.” Finally, we move on to the seventh bowl, which at the end caused seventy-pound hailstones to fall on people from the sky. “But the people cursed G-d for the plague of hail, that it was such a terrible plague.”
We can deduce tremendous information and insight from this parashah, not only in the context of the events of the time, but what is happening in our world today and is yet to come. The message is clear; turn your heart toward home(heaven) and make G-d’s Name known throughout the nations. This can only be accomplished through following Deuteronomy 6:4-11 and remaining strong, focused, and at peace that our G-d, the G-d of Israel will never leave nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6; Hebrews 13:5; then Numbers 23:19 and John 14:27)
Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel) 28:25-29:21
This week’s haftarah starts with the ingathering of the exiles, reflecting back on G-d’s promise in our parashah “I will take you out of the suffering of Egypt.” Ezekiel discusses the decimation of Pharaoh and Egypt, also reflecting the devastation wrought upon Egypt described in the parashah.
Ezekiel tells us what will occur during the ingathering of the exiles. “When I gather in the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they have been scattered, and I have been sanctified through them in the eyes of the nations, then they shall dwell on their land that I gave to My servant, to Jacob. And they shall dwell upon it securely.”
Ezekiel proceeds to convey a prophecy regarding Pharaoh and Egypt, foretelling the fall of the Egyptian empire. Egypt was punished for two reasons. First, they reneged on their promise to assist Israel against the attacking Babylonians. Second, they had incredible arrogance, considering themselves totally self-reliant on the bounty of the Nile instead of G-d. The Nile was their G-d. It is interesting that “G-d turned the waters of Egyptian god (the Nile) to blood and killed the life within it. That is a teaching in itself! This description fits America perfectly. Therefore, Ezekiel warns them: “And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and in ruins, and they shall know that I am the L-rd! Because he [pharaoh] said, ‘The river is mine, and I have made it.’” G-d warns that the land of Egypt will be empty and desolate for forty years, after which G-d will return the people to the land to re-inhabit it, but it will no longer be an important nation to be reckoned with. Could this statement foretell the future of the United States? Only time will tell.
The haftarah ends with another prophecy where G-d tells Ezekiel that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, will be the one to conquer Egypt and take its riches. This was a reward given him by G-d because he was accomplishing G-d’s purpose by defeating the nation of Tyre.
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 9:14-17
Now let’s look at the relationship between Ex. 9:16 to Rom. 9:17. In this passage (Rom 8:26-9:29), Paul compares G-d’s promise to believers with his promise to Israel. We know that Israel as the bride of Yahshua are the true believers both Jew, Gentile, and fellow travelers who carry the Testimony of Yahshua and Guard the Commands of G-d stated seven times in Revelation. These believers have been grafted in to one stick, one bride. Therefore, this relationship should come as no surprise. Romans 8:29-30 literally translates from the Aramaic: “And from beforehand he knew them and marked them with the likeness of the image of his Son that he might be the firstborn of many brothers. And those which beforehand he marked, he called and those whom he called He justified and those whom he justified he glorified.”
The Aramaic does not address predestination, rather foreknowledge. The text compares G-d’s promise to believers with his promise to Israel ([believers=Israel] in Rom. 9:1-4). Paul tells us that G-d selected/elected/chose Israel (Rom. 9:11). He quotes passages from the Tanakh to support his statement (Rom. 9:12= Gen. 25:23); Rom 9:13=Mal.1:2-3). Take note that G-d hated Esau for giving up his inheritance of his own free will (Gen. 25:24-34).
Paul then quotes the Torah: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (Ex. 33:19=Rom 9:15). This highlights G-d’s sovereign right to choose Israel.
Paul refers to our parashah (Rom. 9:17= Ex. 9:16), then presents the parable of the potter and the clay (Rom. 9:19-21); a parable common in Jewish literature (Isaiah 29:16; 45:9; Jer. 18:1-10). In this parable the potter is G-d and man is the clay. The point is that G-d is sovereign over man, just as the potter is over the clay. Paul uses this illustration to justify G-d choosing Israel as his elect while “hating” Esau and allowing Pharaoh to continue in his rebellion toward G-d. Paul’s point in Rom. 9 is not to promote the Greek philosophy of fatalism or to indicate that men have no free will. Rather, his point is to defend G-d’s sovereign right to choose Israel. Furthermore, we can see in this week’s parashah that Pharaoh is not stripped of his free will. However, it does illustrate G-d’s sovereign right to create Pharaoh for His purpose. May we submit ourselves as pliable, willing clay in G-d’s just and merciful hands as He makes us perfect vessels for His service.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart